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Nunavut tests full-day kindergarten

Chesterfield Inlet, Whale Cove schools part of initiative
Victor Sammurtok School, seen here during Pink Shirt Day in 2019, is one of two Kivalliq schools testing full-day kindergarten this school year. NNSL file photo

Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet and Inuglak School in Whale Cove are two of five schools testing full-day kindergarten in the territory for the 2023-24 school year.

The pilot program is the first step to help guide a phased system-wide rollout, the Department of Education told Kivalliq News in an email.

“Piloting the expansion of FDK (full-day kindergarten) in five select schools will help to ensure that the expanded programming is beneficial for students and staff,” stated the department.

A working group, comprising Inuit educators and kindergarten teachers from across Nunavut, was established to develop recommendations on how to use the additional instruction time to ensure that full-day kindergarten offers an “educationally beneficial” experience for students.

To that end, the working group has recommended that the program promote a holistic, integrated approach grounded in Inuit Qaujimajatuqangiit principles; be play-based; emphasize additional instructional time in the Inuit language, literacy and numeracy; and prioritize learning across a range of areas including physical, social and emotional health and wellness.

The other schools participating in the trial run are Nanook School in Apex, Qaqqalik School in Kimmirut and Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik in Kugluktuk.

As for Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet, the school has seen some physical changes to accommodate the program, including installation of a new sink, patched walls and new furniture. As of early October, there were six students registered in the program.

“The FDK program is well supported by the Chesterfield Inlet DEA and parents,” stated the department in an email. “Parents have said that the FDK is a blessing. Parents who work are happy and some parents are also at the school working.”

For Whale Cove, the school has seen several physical changes to accommodate full-day kindergarten including new bathroom accessories, a new door, new toilet and sink and new furniture.

“The program is taught by a qualified teacher who attended the FDK training in Iqaluit,” stated the department. “Our teacher feedback is that the training was a good opportunity for her to learn more about teaching and learning at kindergarten level.”

There were 13 students enrolled in the program at the Whale Cove school as of press time.

Currently, not all schools in Nunavut have the required space or resources to support full-day kindergarten, said the department, which is developing a long-term plan for the sustainable implementation of the program in all schools.

Phase 2 of the rollout will see the department focus on schools that would be the most cost-effective options in terms of renovations. Currently, the department is considering schools in seven communities for the second phase of the rollout.

“Lessons learned from the pilot will be used to inform the Department of Education’s long-term plan and ensure that all schools in Nunavut are adequately prepared to offer full-day kindergarten in their communities,” stated the department.